Refrigerant Transition

New York, March 22nd As the construction industry moves towards sustainability, one of the significant changes underway is the transition to low Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerants in Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. This shift is driven by environmental concerns and regulatory mandates aiming to phase out high-GWP refrigerants like R-410A and R-134A. The spotlight is now on low-GWP alternatives such as R-454B, which promise a greener future for HVAC systems.

Legislative Background: A Global and National Response


The push towards low-GWP refrigerants is rooted in global and national legislative efforts:

  1. 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol: This global agreement focuses on the phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gases often used as refrigerants. HFCs have been linked to significant contributions to global warming, measured by their Global Warming Potential (GWP).
  2. 2020 American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act: In the United States, this act mandates a phasedown of HFCs by 85% by 2036, aligning with the global initiative to reduce the environmental impact of refrigerants.
  3. 2023 EPA Technology Transitions Program Final Rule: This rule specifically targets the HVAC industry, restricting the use of high-GWP HFCs in air conditioning and heat pump products and equipment. Starting in 2025, the use of refrigerants with a GWP higher than 700 will be banned for certain HVAC systems.

Compliance Timeline for HVAC Systems


The transition to low-GWP refrigerants follows a structured timeline, focusing on different types of HVAC systems:

  • Jan 1, 2025: Residential and light commercial air conditioning and heat pump systems, as well as chillers, are affected. New systems using refrigerants with a GWP above 700 can be installed until Jan 1, 2026, as long as all components are manufactured before Jan 1, 2025.
  • Jan 1, 2026: Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) systems will need to comply with the new regulations.
  • Jan 1, 2027: Data centers are expected to transition to low-GWP refrigerants.

New vs. Existing HVAC Systems


It’s important to note that the Technology Transitions Program applies only to new HVAC systems. Existing systems can continue to use high-GWP refrigerants, although the supply of these refrigerants is rapidly decreasing, and costs are expected to rise due to restricted manufacturing capabilities. However, new high-GWP components needed for repairing existing systems can still be manufactured, sold, and distributed.

Implications for Clients and the Industry


As we navigate this transition, it’s crucial for clients and industry professionals to stay informed and proactive:

  • Equipment Purchases: If you’re purchasing equipment for a new system, ensure that you’re aware of the refrigerant being used. Transitioning to low-GWP products will help ensure compliance with new regulations.
  • Timely Orders: For manufacturers still offering R-410A equipment, orders should be placed promptly. Equipment containing R-410A must be manufactured before the end of 2024.

The shift to low-GWP refrigerants represents a significant step towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly HVAC industry. By staying informed and making strategic decisions, we can collectively contribute to a greener future.